It’s only been 20-odd days, and already 2017 has brought with it a whirlwind of change. While many people are busy watching the news or protesting in the streets, HVAC contractors are making preparations. They have less than a year to get ready for the “largest energy-saving standard in history”. The US Department of Energy (DOE’s) new [energy conservation standards for commercial air conditioners and heat pumps, and commercial warm-air furnaces] are set to take effect January 1, 2018. In other words, new rooftop HVAC efficiency regulations are going into effect in 2018, and contractors need to start preparing now! The DOE estimates the new rooftop HVAC standard will save 1.7 trillion kWh over 30 years. In addition, the changes have the potential to net building owners up to $10,000 over the life of a single rooftop unit. The standards will take effect in two phases. But with less than a whole year to go until the first phase, are HVAC contractors ready?
The new rooftop air conditioner standards will cover new units for low-rise buildings, like hospitals and schools. They will be implemented in phases, with the first increasing minimum efficiency by roughly 10% as of January 1, 2018. Furthermore, efficiency is expected to rise to between 25-30% by January 1, 2023, at which time the new warm-air furnaces standards will also take effect. In light of the profits ahead, the industry is expected to undergo a number of changes in business handling.
HVAC manufacturers are making plans to keep themselves in compliance with the new standards. In order to ensure compliance, manufacturers are carefully reviewing them to the smallest detail. In addition, they are redesigning their existing products to meet the new standards and be able to continue selling HVAC equipment. That said, the changes present a number of factors for manufacturers to overcome in the coming year.
• Reengineering their current product designs to meet the new standards.
• How will the changes be handled in the field?
• Will the product(s) remain valuable?
• How will contractors and installers need to be trained?
• How can customers be educated and informed about the changes?
Perhaps the biggest challenge with these new standards will be customer education. As the minimum efficiency level rises, and new standards call for redesigned equipment, costs will also increase. According to Michael Deru at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), “The next biggest impact will be on utilities, because they have to adjust their programs and savings calculations. It gets harder for them to develop new efficiency programs and show savings when the minimum efficiency bar keeps getting higher.”
Despite the exhaustive efforts that now must be taken in order to comply with the January 1 deadline, most HVAC companies are optimistic. They seem determined to meet, if not exceed the new standards in time. None seem all too concerned that new rooftop HVAC efficiency regulations are going into effect in 2018, but there is still time. A spokesperson at the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) was quoted as saying, “…we anticipate a smooth transition”.